IBM Touts LotusLive Connections Social Cloud at Enterprise 2.0

IBM unveils LotusLive Connections, the SAAS version of its social networking and collaboration suite for businesses, at the Enterprise 2.0 show in Boston. The IBM-hosted service will let employees work on projects together, including share data from enterprise applications. IBM is one of a number of vendors, including Microsoft, Google and startups such as Socialcast and MindTouch, tolling the bell for cloud computing collaboration.

One of the bugbears of collaboration software tools released in the '90s was that they were walled off from one another. You might have a number of communication tools in an intranet portal, but they didn't communicate with one another well. Each application was a silo unto itself.

Today in 2009, Web 2.0 tools, the blogs, microblogs, wikis, RSS feeds and other tools that encompass modern Internet collaboration, now constitute the fabric of corporate collaboration. Such tools are the raison d'etre of the Enterprise 2.0 show in Boston this week, where vendors such as Google, IBM and Microsoft will mix with startups such as MindTouch and Socialcast to flaunt their marketing chops and ply their wares.

IBM June 23 launched LotusLive Connections, porting its Lotus Connections social networking suite as a SAAS (software-as-a-service) offering. Launched in 2007 as an enterprise collaboration suite geared to capitalize on the popularity of social networks such as Facebook, Lotus Connections includes apps for employee profiles, blogging, bookmarks and community and activities.

These tools were designed to let company employees, partners, suppliers and customers exchange information and data more efficiently across firewalls. But while Facebook lived on the Web, or the "cloud," Lotus Connections was a suite for businesses to download and host on their own servers.

With LotusLive Connections, a follow-up to the LotusLive Engage, the first SAAS social networking and collaboration app IBM introduced in April, IBM represents the latest break from that hosted software tradition.

Though he declined to provide licensing numbers, IBM Lotus General Manager Bob Picciano said the reception for Engage has been "outstanding," spurring IBM to take Lotus Connections to the cloud to let individuals, departments and small businesses tap into the intellectual resources and capabilities that previously have only been accessible to large enterprises.

Out of the chute, LotusLive Connections will enable users to leverage the Connections Activities app, sharing files and chatting via instant messaging.

For example, Picciano said, a team can use Activities to create a group around a project, including vendors from outside their company. Together they can build a project plan using Activities and post and share associated files. Comments can be made and tasks tracked in the same service.